Agropolis – Raising the Steaks

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I – Introduction

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Fact sheet
Author: Steven AraminiDanny DevinePaul Kluka
Publisher: Button Shy
Illustrations: Danny Devine
Year published: 2021
Player count: 1-2 players
Recommended player count: 1 player
Length: 15 minutes
Set-up and teardown time: fast, 1 minute
Mechanisms: tile placement
Card size: 63×88 mm
Copy obtained through: Kickstarter

Roads. A necessary nightmare, they pop up everywhere transportation is needed, which is everywhere human activity birthes and flourishes. You have experienced them through megalopoles, but you cannot ignore them in rural areas either. Tractors, corn fields and cattle abound there. Do you have what it takes to plan the perfect rural area to maximize production while minimizing road nuisance? 

This review was written after 50 plays.

II – A quick rules summary

To play a game of Agropolis, the player shuffles the deck, draws three cards face-down, then draws three cards in their hand and puts the top card of the deck face-up in the play area.

The three face-down cards determine the target score and the score modifiers, or scoring conditions that will apply during this game.

During their turn, the player will play a card face-up from their hand, orthogonally adjacent to or covering one block or more of one or more cards in play, before drawing a card. They do so until all cards have been played.

They then tally their score, gaining one point for each block in their largest group for each of the four block types, scoring according to the scoring conditions which apply for this game, then losing one point for each visible road.

To win, the player must score equal to or higher than the target score determined at the start of the game.

FF
This fee would add six points to the total: four for the cows and two for the chicken.

Additionally, they can try to attain the Feed Fee, an optional additional point value present on some scoring cards which adds as many points to the target score as there are animals of the depicted type showing on all three scoring cards.

III – A measure of Agropolis

Pros:
– Agropolis is similar to Sprawlopolis! With two little exceptions the game plays exactly the same, meaning it is quick to learn for new players and lightning fast for returning players. Yet it feels different enough due to the new challenges this version focuses on.
Agropolis is challenging! The Feed Fee, animal pens management, and new scoring conditions all contribute to challenging the player more than they ever have been in Sprawlopolis. The spatial puzzle is more prevalent, but also more rewarding than it ever was. New players won’t need to change old habits change but will still need to make the most of each placement.
Agropolis is replayable! Just like Sprawlopolis, the game can be played 816 times without encountering the same exact scoring conditions combination twice, ensuring hours and hours of playtime. This time around, half of the scoring conditions will add a variable Feed Fee to make victory even harder to reach, challenging experienced players in a way that feels more fair than Sprawlopolis‘ hard rule.

Cons:
Agropolis is solitaire! While there are cooperative rules, those leave little room to actual cooperation between the players unless they want to lean into the alpha player syndrome. Most likely, a player who knows what they want will get frustrated that the other player(s) are not taking the necessary steps to achieve their vision. Having full control, and full responsibility, over the events is where the game truly will shine.
Agropolis is abstract! While the theme may be charming, at no point does it really come through the gameplay, which mostly consists of matching coloured squares traversed by a black line to generate higher numbered values. The names of the scoring conditions may be cute and thematic, they do not yet translate into actual thematic gameplay or placements.
Agropolis is still a sprawling game! It may not bear the Sprawl moniker anymore but Agropolis is no less space-consuming for a game its size than its predecessor was. Repositionning the play area will sometimes happen, although maybe less so than against the Sprawlopolis scoring condition; doing so usually means trouble as cards will hardly keep their layout.

IV – The wall of text (a.k.a. the Comboteur Fou’s opinion)

Gameplay

Introduction

Sprawlopolis was a surprise hit with incredible depth considering the small number of components it relied on: 18 cards and one rulesheet, which you can read about in great detail in my review. While its expansions failed to maintain interest except for the quite nice Beaches and the game-changing Interstate, fortunately the base game was good enough to stand on its own for hundreds of plays. Due to the excellent reception, Button Shy has logically decided to release a new stand-alone game heavily lifted from its predecessor. With such big shoes to fill, how does Agropolis live to its sprawling counterpart, does it improve on the formula and does it play different enough to justify its own existence?

[B Bbm Eb Bb C Dm Db Gm Ebm Am Em Ab G F]

For a new player, Agropolis has all the features that made Sprawlopolis a hit: a pocket-sized game with tremendous replay-value, variable objectives, 18 of them, and the same base scoring conditions of trying to avoid having too many roads and grouping as many blocks of the same colour as possible. Overlapping cards already in play is a returning feature, as is the three cards hand and knowledge of the forthcoming one. In that regard, nothing is new there and the game will function as an entrypoint just as well as its older counterpart.

Rather than diluting the existing scoring objectives and creating baroque scoring targets or unattainable ones with cards sharing numbers with existing ones or cards ranging from 19 to 36, the game acts as an uncompatible standalone to the series, thus reusing the same 1 to 18 scale and the same city layouts on the faceup side of the cards, only adding a new feature to what used to be gardens and making the scoring conditions overall more challenging, with more opportunities to lose points and objectives requiring more dedication to score them, forfeiting groups.

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How about THEM apples?

More than reskins, these new conditions force the player to rethink the way they approach the game, and the focus on building large zones of blocks is now shifting toward some rather innovative new encouraged configurations that will more readily punish the player that does not follow them. Such new configurations might be arranging orchards in unique patterns, building a 6×6 grid—a more challenging ordeal than it seems at first—or ensuring that some animals are properly placed in respect to other species. Few of these scoring objectives are callbacks to the earlier ones, although a couple are, some not necessarily to the most interesting Sprawlopolis ones, sadly. Luckily, none take inspiration from its most dreaded objective from, Go Green.

March of the Pigs

Gardens becoming livestock pens, effectively a variation of six different configurations for the block—pigs, cows and chickens each in variations of single and double pens—all sharing the same colour, and thus counting as the same block type for all intents and purposes other than a few select objectives, opens to a slew of new ways to design objectives, which clearly inspired the designers, and will put players to the test.

Each of the seven “Livestock matters” cards—cards with an objective that requires handling a given species—bears the Feed Fee optional rule, a semi hard mode with no fancy rulebook double-checking required and no feeling of drastic injustice—the previous game had a mode where the player only scores one zone out of four, a rule which, along with the easy rule from the same game, disappeared from Agropolis—making up for the opportunity to exploit the condition with higher target objectives that, when figured out, are yet still easily overcome by a seasoned, by which I don’t mean salty, player.
This can add up to a potential 6 points per card to the target—each card bearing no more than two of each animal, and up to five animal total, it is impossible for a given card to add more than six points to the target—an important amount considering the normal points range. While the odds of all three cards bearing the fee are low, overcoming such a possibility will be quite the challenge. The fee no longer appears after card #10.
Interestingly enough, should the player draw all three cards with a cattle fee, zero points would be added to the objective, as no card bearing a fee displays the animal it taxes, and cattle is the only species to appear on three cards.
Each of the cards with a fee displays between two and three animals in their tax line, ensuring the added score remains fairly low should more than one fee card be drawn.
Focusing on maxing out points granted by scoring double pens seems, so far, to be the best way to handle the feed fee. Although the game lacks the depth caring for the adjacency of each single pen of a double pens block would grant it as, currently, each pen is considered to be part of the block and does not have to physically touch a given block to score accordingly. A requirement that was erroneously put in application during the initial plays leading to this review while still guaranteeing wins, proving that, while more challenging, the clause remains viable and a potential interesting houserule to raise the stakes in raising the steaks.

As a result, the livestocks further enhance the analysis paralysis potential of the -opolis series: while the game can be challenging enough for the player to suffer from analysis paralysis, as they have to factor in five scoring variables (blocks, roads, and the three scoring conditions) as well as the current layout and the four visible cards (three in hand, one on the deck) and the myriad of possibilities they offer in terms of placement, block coverage and rotation, Agropolis complicates it even further with the new iterations of the park, each with a different impact on some of the games, contributing to making the game feel more challenging.

Whether or not the game actually is more challenging, though, is debatable.

City, Country, City

The main twist of Agropolis when compared to its city counterpart is that scoring on the objectives is now less instinctive, and that few of these cards will straight out give high amounts of points without requiring dedicated strategies often resulting in breaking down large zones. Them Apples and Polyominorchards are great examples, as they will reward the player for having multiple orchard zones instead of a large one, and can net a vast amount of points if said player agrees to forfeit the blocks reward at the end of the game—Polyominorchards can give no less than 18 while a perfect management of Them Apples can grant a whopping 23 points.

Some combinations will reward the player with a lot of points for each move, as explored later in this review; while others have potential point losses for each placement, and balancing the loss while netting no positive point will prove challenging. The combination Fruitful Endeavour, Corntry Roads, Polyominorchards, for instance, has proven impossible to beat so far.

Such is the nature of the game, as was already observed in the previous game. Tenacity will eventually reward the player, and all 816 combinations are beatable, but they might require a specific draw order.

Interesting random bit of trivia: while positioned in a way where flipping the card on the right makes it so the facedown text can be read, none of the cards in Sprawlopolis has a park in the upper left block, while no card in Agropolis has livestock in their lower right block.

At 4:30 in the morning I’m milkin’ cows, Jebediah feeds the chickens and Jacob plows… fool

While the first plays feel like the game is daunting. experience proves that Agropolis is, overall, easier than its predecessor, and seldom are the combinations that won’t be won first try by an experienced player—not accounting for the feed fee. There are more opportunities for points loss, but even then, a win is not out of reach. Dedicating oneself to objectives that can yield vast amounts of points usually trumps the loss from the road tax, and it may be due to a total of 120+ games over Sprawlopolis and Agropolis building experience more than anything, but combos feel easier to pull off for vast amounts of points in this iteration, despite objectives that look at first like they can only bring meager scraps.

The main challenge for this version initially lies in having to break down large zones into smaller ones that contribute little in terms of points, to try and maximize gains from objectives. In reality, point loss is a major contribution to the feeling of challenge that emanates from the game. When Sprawlopolis stopped making players lose points somewhere around card #6, Agropolis ups the ante with opportunities to decrease their scoring up to card #15, forcing the player to remain alert more often when they used to be able to simply ignore or vastly neglect a condition previously.

Meuh meuh meuh font les vaches

Stand-alone are not usually the most exciting expansion type, as they imply having to cover simpler and easier grounds for new players, therefore presenting little in the way of challenge for returning players as they dedicate a good amount of components to those grounds, whereas actual expansions can push on the challenge, complexity and difficulty, their target more likely being experienced players.

In the case of Sprawlopolis, expansions failed to bring much of interest to the game, aside from Beaches and Interstate, as mentioned in the introduction. It was rapidly apparent that what the game really needed to expand and continue to entertain past hundreds of play, if it did, was a new set of objective cards. 

Agropolis does not work as a new expansion, being incompatible with Sprawlopolis, and is thus entirely a new iteration, a reimplementation that shares the vast majority of its DNA with its predecessor. While that would get a big box game a grunt, the wallet format makes it a perfect candidate for such a treatment, as rather than having to compete with another game in terms of budget and shelf space, both games can easily cohabitate.

As an entry point for a new player, Agropolis functions just as well as Sprawlopolis, offering the same replay-value, the same core rules, and little in the way of added complexity, given that the Feed Fee rule can be ignored just as well as the difficulty tweaks of the latter could. With the caveat that there now no longer is an easy mode, for what remains at first a challenging game.
The pens are is small enough a layer of depth that it does not up the complexity enough to turn the game daunting for someone who hasn’t played the first game. UItimately, the major decision factor will be the theme, colour palette and access to expansions, with Agropolis being a little more appealing to the eye with an uncommon colour palette that won’t ravish hearts as easily as the bright and vibrant Sprawlopolis, the latter also having the good taste of offering a competitive and three rather stimulating twists for the cooperative or solo mode, while the two single-cards expansions that both games share are eminently forgettable. At the time of this review, it remains to be seen what the Weather expansion really brings.
In terms of objectives, both games feel satisfyingly self-contained without one creating a sense of lost opportunity over the other, and both will provide hours of interesting puzzles and excruciating decisions with an equal number of possible score permutations.
As such, Agropolis choosing one game over the other will mostly be a matter of preference for factors such as theme, colour palette and access to expansions.

Heavy horses, move the land under me

Regarding the balance between objectives, cow-centered objectives are globally quite challenging, while pig-oriented objectives are fairly easy to score big with. Objectives centered around chickens are somewhat challenging but not as much as those that care for our favorite bovines. This may be a matter of affinity, and some player might find that, on the contrary, they’re more attuned to the objectives where ruminants matter than the other two.

The balance sometimes feels off between difficult requirements, high scoring opportunities, and the difficulty an objective adds to the target, with objectives 16 and 18 being able to score vast amounts or at least evening out without too much effort, while objectives 15 and 17 require a lot of effort from the player while only bearing meager gains and reducing their opportunities to score on core scoring conditions. While that does not make the game any less interesting, it can make it feel unfair at times, and the difficulty feel uneven when some games will be breezed through when others will border on impossible.

This section will heavily lean towards strategy, do not read if you intend to enjoy discovering the game by yourself.

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1. Wine Seller

 Not an objective that calls for strategizing around itself, Wine Seller should still be easy to manage so as not to lose too many points to it. Expecting to win more than two total would be unreasonable, and it is merely there to punish single segments, now costing two points instead of one, which, depending on the other objectives, might not be easy to avoid. Having two vineyard blocks on a given road, without even having to interconnect them, is not much of a requirement, and should therefore be easy to circumvent, although it can also be easy to lose track of that requirement when building towards other objective. The punishment should not be too harsh, making up for the meager gains opportunity.
Hardly makes the game revolve around itself, this one is more of an afterthought.

2. Big Country

The potential for losing five points makes this objective daunting, and depending on the other two, building a square of six by six might be difficult. Especially considering that doing so only amounts to three bonus points if we substract the two that it adds to the target score. Breaking even on a five by five grid is manageable, most of the time, and if possible, a little push to the additional three points can help. This objective can be especially punishing with Udderly Impossible and Cornercopia, presenting a situation where whatever move the player opts for, they are going to lose points. Most of the time, though, the investment is worthwhile and can help make bigger zone, making it a good priority.

3. Udderly Impossible

With the potential of losing four points for a poorly placed pen block, this objective can call for a lot of covering in order to minimize losses. If the player is willing to go the distance and manage an elongated city, and can stomach the potential point loss from tiny road sections, they could gather nine points from this objective alone, considering that there are nine cow pens in total. Ideally, they will break their city in two, with one part maximizing their livestock block with pigs and chickens, if needed, and the other one checkering cows for additional points. Ideal when coupled with Bacons and Eggs, the objective is a nightmare when paired with Agropolis. Whether to maximize points from it or minimize losses, Udderly Impossible will require the player’s full attention.

4. Count Your Chickens

The saving grace of this objective is that the player will only lose point if none of their chicken pens meet the requirement, meaning that they can mostly ignore it to focus on making their livestock block as large as possible while only sacrificing one chicken pen, which might not even be needed should they manage to make the block sprawl over an intersecting road. Having two chicken pens face each other can be more of a challenge than it initially appears. This objective can potentially net points, but requires careful balance not to lose points to the other ones. In certain combinations, preventing the loss will remain the smartest move. Agropolis could make it a minor inconvenience if the chickens pens still factor in that card’s total scoring. An objective that can be mostly ignored and will rarely be worth the hassle.

5. All the Way Home

This objective can bring up to nine points at minimal efforts, while encouraging the player to build as long a road as possible, therefore minimizing their points loss to the road tax, making it an ideal one to draw in most situation, especially when combined with Swine Country. Considering the pig pens do not have to be part of the same group and each single pen of the dual-pens blocks do not have to meet the requirements, All the Way Home is one of the easiest objectives to score on. It is therefore fully deserving of the player’s full attention and should be considered a priority most of the time.

6. Fruitful Endeavor

In the world of objectives that are best forgotten while the player crosses fingers that they do not lose to many points due to them, in Agropolis, Fruitful Endeavor is king. Sprawling cities will be severely punished, while smaller, square-shaped ones like those built around Big Country will benefit from it the most. Each extra square added outside of the current city limits is a potential point loss, so the least the player expands, the easier managing the objective is.
Scoring it also is the most fiddly task in the game, but but the punishment luckily remains mild most of the time. It sometimes even accidentally gives a couple of positive points, although it mostly substracts some. A strong contender for least fun objective in the game and one that could easily be considered a redraw, if only to spare oneself the tedious endgame scoring.
Should the player want to avoid losing too many points to it, or even score some, Fruitful Endeavor becomes the most fiddly objective during the game as well. Contrary to Sprawlopolis‘s Bloom Boom, which works approximately the same and fulfill the same function, it adds not 2 but 6 points to the final objective, making it harder to ignore, while having the potential to ruin two block zones instead of one, as while Go Green needs parks only, Fruitful Eandeavour requires both a vineyard and an orchard; as well as other scoring opportunities.
An objective best ignored while focusing on the other two, keeping in mind not to expand the city too much if possible. Or best redrawn during setup.

7. Cornfed

Although it cannot lose the player points by itself, Cornfed is a challenging objective to score on, as it requires a checkered city where corn fields alternate with cow pens. The double pens are especially challenging, since surrounding a block with an another type demands a lot of sacrifice on other tasks. Interesting in terms of design, as it is the only one that specifically treats double pens blocks differently than single pen ones, making a precedent for future designs, it is usually best neglected, especially the double pens, as the harder requirement does not yield any additional point, and unless the player intends to surround a livestock line with two corn lines, or better yet, a U-shaped one, the point loss on the two groups will not be worth the investment. Perfectly scored as described above, which is virtually impossible anyway due to the disposition of the blocks, will bring at best ten points on top of the large groups. Most of the time, collecting a couple of odd points on the last card placement is often one of the best ways to handle it. As usual, it also depends on the other two objectives and how well they can complement Cornfed.
An objective best forgotten that is rarely worth the investment and could have done with a rehauling making the double pens more worthwhile.

8. Coops and Loops

A callback to Sprawlopolis‘s Looping Lanes, this objective also has a 6 points lower threshold, which is fortunate considering that it is more challenging, as building a road loop no longer yields points by itself, since it now has to surround chickens. A daunting requirement, although if perfectly performed, it can by itself bring a total of eighteen points, not accounting for the reduction in the number of roads, and the potential large livestock block. The objective definitely begs for being built around, and doing so is both challenging and amusing. A nice twist on the original and a decent one to prioritize.

9. Happy Cows

While this objective asks the player to naturally group livestocks together, it also confronts them with a difficult road management, and because it can lose the player points while contributing a rather high amount to the endgame threshold, the player will want to remember that they can indeed cover cow pens when placing a new card, thus cutting their losses. Should they meet the requirement, though, the player can double up or even triple their gains on their largest livestock block. The objective definitely encourages the player to build the largest possible livestock zone and to surround the cows with pigs and pens to distance them from roads. Drawing it along with Cornfed is unfortunate as the two objectives are not compatible. Since the pens either give or lose points, it is best to keep the objective in mind at all times.

10. Swine Country

Contrary to the “cows matter” objectives, Swine Country does not ask of the player to break down their base strategy of building the largest block possible. As such, it is easier to fulfill this objective and maximize profits with up to eighteen additional points. The higher threshold is no issue, as having a large vineyard and scoring on all the pigs is going to bring up to 33 points by itself. In an ideal situation, that is. A good objective to prioritize and build around.

11. Tractor Tour

Rather than the longest road in Sprawlopolis, this objective asks of the player that they give said road the most possible turns, which turns out to be more challenging than it would appear at first, as doing so will lead the road to different destinations that may be putting other objectives in jeopardy, put a stop to the road altogether, or create too many small road sections which lose the player more points than they bring. In the end, oftentimes the objective ends up earning less points than anticipated after having to mitigate draws and minimize losses on the other two scoring cards. That makes it no less of an objective to prioritize but it is better to do so in conjonction with others. Works well with Happy Cows and All the Way Home, less so with Agropolis or Big Country.

12. Corntry Roads

Unless the player is actively bulding for it, this objective can be considered a straight twelve points loss, with the occasional single road scoring a meager single point since it will itself tax the player for a point. Having more corn squares than all the others combined is extremely challenging and usually happens only on roads composed of a single section, which in itself isn’t ideal. As it turns out, most of the time the requirement is too challenging to attain and none of the roads end up scoring on it. It is almost always better to focus on making the most of the other scoring conditions than breaking up patterns for the meager gains this one can offer. Few are the objectives that really benefit from Corntry Roads, but trying to score on Cornfed with a large corn block made of a single road can, although only a ridiculous two points compared to the objective of twelve, and Cornercopia, the most likely candidate, which will really benefit from Corntry. Aside from that, it is best to completely ignore Corntry Roads and focus on maximize the other two and the largest zones.

13. Polyominorchards

A perfect game with this objective can make it score eighteen points, with three blocks of four squares each and the last three combined in a single block. The downside being that, on orchard, the player will only score four points at the end of the game. While eighteen is only five points more than the added target, it remains three more points than if the player built the largest possible orchard, and when said orchard is factored in at the end, the objective ends up yielding up to twenty-two points total, making it a top priority to build around, without being too challenging either. The biggest issue with this objective is refraining from adding a fifth square to an already established block of four, which would ruin the pattern. Other than that it is one of the most pleasant objectives to play around.

14. Bacon and Eggs

Another one of the “build around me” objectives, this one can also be used to make the most of a livestock block and yield  alot of points if planned properly, with the challenge mostly coming from the ability to score properly on the other two cards when making the most of this one. Checkering chickens and pigs is, in a vacuum, a simple task and, with a potential eighteen plus up to fifteen points from the livestock zone, well worth the hassle. Provided, once again, that the player can afford losing points in other tasks. On a different approach it pairs admirably with Noah’s Farm and Agropolis, tripling the use of each pig and chicken.

15. Cornercopia

A twist on Sprawlopolis’ Tourist Traps, this objective challenge is upped doubly, by allowing it to substract points from the player’s total, quite burtally so considering that it adds that many points to the target, and by not accounting for blocks with only one exposed corner. As a result, it is one if not the most challenging objectives in the game, as it forces a disjointed map full of corners, breaks down opportunities to score on a corn group and thus double up on points, and punishes the player for failing to score.
While it can yield up to thirty points on its own, doing so requires a good amount of work from the player and makes it tougher to score on the other objectives, and it can be preferable to simply cover corn squares to minimize losses, while hoping to score the odd square here and there.
Pairs relatively well with Corntry Roads for isolated corners with a single block worth of road. When the player dedicates itself to it, it still works admirably well. And if they draw it, they’d better do so, as both other options—covering all the corn blocks or losing points to them—will greatly damage their chances. They just need to be able to.
An objective that can make the balance questionable and has too harsh a punishment while still being beatable with some work.

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16. Them Apples

Due to its constraints and its added bonus, this objective is one of the most rewarding and interesting in the game, and deserves to be treated as a primary objective in the games it appears in. Since it rewards the player for having their orchard groups all be different sizes, the player can cheat the requirement by having a group of fourteen blocks and a single isolated block, thus scoring twenty five points on this objective alone, with a net bonus of nine points compared to its requirement, making it one of the most lucrative objectives in the game and an absolute priority just about anytime. Which also makes the balance and variety a little questionable.

17. Noah’s Farm

Another one of those objectives which require of the player to build small separate groups of a given block type, Noah’s Farm requires a lot of dedication to score a meager three points, regardless of the size of the groups created, and is usually best scored when coupled with other objectives caring about livestock. The issue being that it adds that many points to the target. Resolutely a challenging objective to score on to begin with, it also makes the game more challenging by being the second highest target while yielding considerably less points opportunities than Them Apples and Agropolis. Scoring a large amount of points on this objective is possible if the player accepts to forego the livestock and only score 2 or 3 points on it, and it pairs admirably well with Agropolis and Bacon and Eggs. Whether or not to prioritize it will depend on the other two objective cards. Luckily, it remains compatible with the pig-based objectives as, as noted above, they do not require a continuous group of swines to score, thus not being the harshest one of the bunch.

18. Agropolis

Like Sprawlopolis before it, this objective requires of the player to make as large a city as possible, although this time it only cares about a given type of block, and can be countered by other objectives such as Udderly Impossible. Most of the time, getting even with the target score it adds can be done fairly instinctively by gathering all the pens in a cross, and combining it with Bacons and Eggs or Swine Country can make for engaging games of difficult planning, which is when the game shines the most. Resolutely one to be treated as a main objective, it can win games without too much effort, surprisingly given that it is also the one that adds the highest amount.

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Bacon and Eggs, Agropolis, and a large livestock zone make up for totally ignoring Coops and Loops and the road tax. With zero planning or effort.

Bats in the belfry

Art-wise, Agropolis keeps its elder’s style but with more diverse scenes and more easter eggs, such as the crop circle or the off-road derby in the cornsfield. Livestock blocks are rather underwhelming, offering little in the way of scenes. There is only so many ways to depict pigs, chickens and cows in a pen from a topdown view, yet shockingly, none of them represent interesting little scenes in the animals’ lives, and none include humans. A pig having a mudbath, a cow feeding its calf or a farmer giving corn to their chicken would have helped with the monotony of this particular block type.
With that being said, and while some people seem to have trouble telling animal types apart, the different kinds of pens and pen numbers in a block are easy enough to differentiate. Although it would have broken the immersion and overall art style, a symbol could have made it easier for even those with a lower eyesight to tell the cattle apart. The overall palette is slightly darker with unusual colours that do not pop as much as the ones from Sprawlopolis, but remain easily identified. Because they do not rely on buildings, the blocks are even easier to tell apart from what they depict, with vineyards being smaller than apple trees from the orchard, and the vast emptiness of the cornfields being unique by themselves. The game is thus colourblind-friendly.

Just like Sprawlopolis, the theme is both pasted on and on point, with the objective names making sense in regard to what they actually require, and they contribute nicely to making the game cuter than it has a right to be. Calling it a thematic game would be a stretch, though.

The scoring side keeps the pseudo-blueprint layout of Sprawlopolis but with rural-like roads, i.e. without the white markings, which is accurate, at least with French country road. The new bottom line which introduces the animals for the Feed Fee blends in seamlessly. Aside from these new touches, the two games in the line are easily identified, should the cards accidentally be shuffled together, thanks to the different shape of the scoring block, which looks like a barn this time around.

Each scoring card depicts the scoring in action to help better understand fringe situations. It covers scoring situations, situations that do not score, and situations that lose points accurately most of the time and covers as much ground as possible without leaving room for confusion. For the majority, the examples are more explicit than those found in Sprawlopolis, where they sometimes didn’t cover enough particulars or left some room to interpretation, making Agropolis an easier game to pick up in that regard. For instance, where Tourist Traps failed to define city edges properly and would leave room for misinterpretation, Cornercopia clearly defines in which situation a block would score positively or negatively.

The rules are concise and explicit. The core rules are made abudently clear in the leaflet with visual example that leave no room to misinterpretation, with the placement room being especially clear.

Conclusion

Agropolis is merely Sprawlopolis with a twist. The main feature is the eighteen new scoring conditions and the increased variety they bring, while the twist broadens the game to a whole new level of challenge. Returning players can pick the game up and play it within seconds while they have to rethink their approach entirely and are faced with more punishing decisions. Said punishments can look discouraging to new players, when Sprawlopolis could already be fairly punishing to suboptimal road management, and the risk is that players who discovered the series with Agro and mastered its challenges might find Sprawl stale in comparison. Proof that Agropolis does a better job?

They did it again.

Agropolis belongs to Button Shy Games.

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